So, the text I was assigned to write about…
Deuteronomy 24:14 - “You shall not oppress a hired servant who is poor and needy, whether he is one of your countrymen or one of your aliens who is in your land in your towns [NASB]
…came with a specific warning not to write about politics. That’s a tough order with this text in the current political environment. So I turned to the text in its full context, Deut 24:6-22, for some guidance. My Bible not-so-helpfully entitles that section “Sundry Laws.” Doesn’t seem like much help. Each verse is guidance about something seemingly different like about how to collect on a debt or gleaning the crops. But on closer examination there is a theme. With one notable exception (V.8) the laws all center on how to treat “the other.”
That set me to thinking about other similar verses like 1 Peter 3:1-8 about husbands and wives and Eph 6:1-9 about slaves and masters and children and parents. Suddenly a pattern began to emerge. In every instance there are people in superior and inferior positions. And in every instance God urges submission on the part of the person or persons in the inferior position, but He also urges those in the superior position to be kind and gentle. In the words of the 1 Peter passage, “To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit;….”
In these passages God is not really offering guidance about the specifics of the ordering of the relationship, rather He is giving us guidance about who we are supposed to be, regardless of the relationship. It’s not about politics, it’s about character. How different would things be today if we worried more about our character than our politics? (or our income, or our status, or our taste in movies….) Godliness is apolitical, and yet it would be amazing to witness how well politics would function if everyone were godly.
During Lent we celebrate the time Jesus spent in the wilderness preparing Himself for public ministry. Jesus came, by His own admission, to establish God’s kingdom. That sounds political. Yet He did not spend that time in the wilderness writing manifestos, organizing a group, networking, or reading the news. He spent that time in prayer and meditation with His Father and resisting the temptation of the evil one. Even the Lord Incarnate worked on His character.
God’s kingdom is based not on a political system, but on the people in it. If we are all godly people then God’s kingdom is present, monarchical, oligarchical, democratic or socialist though the government may be. It has been my privilege to travel a good bit of the world. – some of it behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold War. I have witnessed the Holy Spirit move mightily even in the bowels of the Soviet Union and active efforts to suppress it. God is bigger than our politics.
There is a tradition of Lenten sacrifice. I’ve never really been into it, except when I was trying to lose weight. Wrong motive makes it a bit of a cheat. I think rather this Lent I will work on reordering priorities. Life does not permit me, or anyone really, 40 days in the wilderness. But I can make time with God more important than the news.